I have achieved all my goals: Prof Rapapa

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Pascalinah Kabi

ONE remarkable aspect about the 3 June 2017 elections is that they pitted two brothers, Professor Ntoi and Sam Rapapa, against each other in the Mosalemane constituency.

Professor Ntoi represented the Alliance of Democrats (AD) while Mr Sam represented the All Basotho Convention (ABC) in the polls.

For that period, the fraternal ties were set aside as Professor Ntoi slugged it out with his older brother who went on to win the contest.

However, Prof Rapapa went on to represent the same constituency and his AD party in the Senate and was eventually named Education and Training Minister, thus fulfilling his dream.

In a recent interview with the Lesotho Times, the 50-year-old said growing up in the dusty streets of Maphatšoaneng, Mapoteng, in the Berea district without a father toughened him up and made him fight for his goals.

Born on 28 February 1968 in a family of four boys and two girls, Prof Rapapa said growing up without a father was a huge challenge for him and his siblings. Their father died when he was just five years old.

“It toughened me and inspired me to work hard because other children who had both parents would neither spend days at the cattle post nor farm during the rainy season,” Prof Rapapa said.

“It was harsh because there was no father figure to protect us against the community which would at times turn against us. Mothers would always be viewed as weak and unable to protect their children. However, such challenges built a strong character in me and I have surpassed some people who had all the support structures in their families.”

He said his mother, ‘Matšabalira Rapapa’s love for education drove him to aspire to be a teacher or an accountant.

Ms Rapapa’s love for education, he said, was influenced by the fact that her own father denied her a chance to go to school. Her father believed school children were naughty.

“My mother never knew how to write her name but she could count money. She made a living out of selling clothes, traditionally brewed beer and yields from the farms. She would always be trading at any given time,” he said.

Prof Rapapa said Ms Rapapa saved him when he temporarily dropped out of school and stayed at home for two months. He had absconded to escape corporal punishment from his uncle who was a teacher.

Eager to ensure that her children get a shot at education, Ms Rapapa, forced him to disclose the real reason behind his decision to stay at home. Upon failing to satisfy her, he was immediately enrolled at Sebitia Primary School in 1981 where he passed the end of year Standard 7 examinations with a First Class in 1983.

Although Prof Rapapa was admitted at Dahon High School in 1984, his mother could not afford school fees for two children. Sympathetic to the young student, the school principal, Sister Reni Khiba, made him a proposal that he could continue with his studies for free on condition he performed well.

“She (Sister Khiba) motivated me and I topped my class throughout high school. I then enrolled for the six-month Lesotho Pre-entry Science Programme 1989 and while there, I applied to Lerotholi Polytechnic. The Dutch science programme manager asked me to withdraw my application and insisted that I apply for a Bachelor of Science degree at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

“I came out tops in my first year in 1990 and I applied for a transfer to study economics. However, the dean of natural sciences refused to authorise the transfer. So I continued with physics and mathematics until I graduated in 1993,” Prof Rapapa said

The NUL physics department immediately gave him a job that same year as a teaching assistant before he enrolled for a Post Graduate Diploma in Physics in Italy in 1994.  He returned home a year later and in 1996 he left to pursue a PhD in Mathematics and Physics with Manchester University in England.

In 1999, Prof Rapapa went back to his teaching job and was became a senior lecturer in 2005. He was made an associate professor in Physics in 2009.

While he was content with what he had achieved as an educationist, Prof Rapapa still wanted to work for the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) as chief executive officer in 2010.

“Growing up I wanted two things – to become a teacher or an accountant but I later desired to become a professor, CEO and a minister. When I was a CEO I was answerable to the minister and that’s when I said “maybe I can become a minister”.

“My desire from a young age was to become the best teacher which I think I became because every single year that I was at NUL, my profile rose. I also wanted to be the best chief executive officer which, I think by all standards, I became at LEWA. When I left LEWA the organisation, it was at the best level where one would want it to be and that can be attested by all their performance audits.

“One thing that I failed to do was to win the constituency but still I became a senator and eventually a minister. I can safely say I have achieved all that I have ever desired.”

Prof Rapapa said despite the political rivalry between him and his older brother in the Mosalemane constituency, the results never affected their relationship. In fact, he said, the issue “is only sore for outsiders who do not really understand politics”.

“In our dealings, we never fight because of politics. We fully understand that politics has nothing to do with our brotherly relationship. We have always maintained a good relationship.”

He appreciates the hard work that his brother put in to win the parliamentary seat and even congratulated him for that. He however, said he was also happy that the AD continued to grow in the Mosalemane constituency and nationally.

The AD got 1170 votes in the general elections at Mosalemane constituency and these increased to 1370 in the local government elections in September 2017.

The AD has three councilors in Mosalemane while ABC has nine. And this has not affected the Rapapa brothers’ relationship.

“This has not affected us although I don’t see either one of us crossing over to the other’s party because we have our own strong beliefs where we are.

“Where we don’t agree, we agree to disagree. There are situations where we disagree but we never allow ourselves to quarrel about it because each has his own political aspirations.

“It is actually a blessing that the constituency has two people working hard to develop it and make it what its people want it to become. We both thank Mosalemane people for giving us this task as brothers”.

Prof Rapapa said AD was exceptional because of its visionary leader whose “God-given vision” helped him grow personally and in his career. He said former Prime Minister, Ntsu Mokhehle and AD leader Monyane Moleleki were his political role models.

“In all my achievements, the most important thing is to thank my mother, my wife, ‘Mapalesa Rapapa and my two children, Palesa and Mohlomi. These are the pillars that have made it happen to me. The other people that have contributed to what I am today are some of my high school teachers, university professors and my leader, Ntate Monyane Moleleki.”

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